The moving spirit for the Elks was an Englishman named Charles Algernon Sidney Vivian. Born October 22, 1842, this son of a clergyman was a successful comic singer and dancer in the music halls of London. In November 1867, Vivian arrived in New York City to try his fortune.
Other actors and entertainers soon gravitated toward his magnetic personality, and soon this group dubbed themselves the Jolly Corks, a name derived from a practical joke of the time.
When one of their members died shortly before Christmas in 1867, leaving his wife and children destitute, the Jolly Corks decided that in addition to good fellowship, they wanted to have a more enduring organization to serve those in need. On February 16, 1868, they established the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
Its social activities and benefit performances increased the popularity of the new Order. Membership grew rapidly. Elks traveling to other cities spread the word of the Brotherhood of Elks. Soon there were requests for Elks Lodges in cities other than New York. In response to these appeals, the Elks asked the New York State legislature for a charter authorizing the establishment of a Grand Lodge with the power to establish local Lodges anywhere in the United States. When the Grand Lodge Charter was issued, the founders then received the first local charter as New York Lodge No. 1 on March 10, 1871.
Over the years, the mission has been consistent, and the membership has become more inclusive. Today's guidelines for membership are that the candidate be invited to join, be a citizen of the United States, and believe in God.
The legacy of Charles Vivian continues to this day. As long as there are those who need help, the Elks will be there to give aid and comfort
The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the United States of America is one of the oldest and largest fraternal organizations in the country. Since its inception in 1868, the Order of Elks has grown to include nearly 1.2 million men and women in almost 2,200 communities
The BPO Elks is committed to the ideals of charity and patriotism. To that end, Elks have now disbursed over the Orders 132 years more than $2.69 billion in cash, goods, and services to the nations youth, its veterans, the disadvantaged and handicapped, and in support of patriotic and civic programs. In the 1998-99 fiscal year alone, the BPO Elks expended in such fashion over $160 million, and the Order ranks as one of the largest private providers of college scholarships in the nation.
The Elks have created a quiet network of good deeds that has profoundly changed millions of lives for the better, yet there is little public awareness of the impact of their vital work. Why is this so? Quite simply, the Elks have rarely sought recognition, neither have they gone to the general public with fund-raising efforts nor received monies from any level of government. Indeed, the flow of money and goods moves in the opposite direction: the Elks donated to the government the first veterans hospital; contribute regularly to schools and police and fire departments; and assist the young and the needy throughout this great nation.
And where does all this charitable giving come from? From the generous hearts of Elks members whose willingness to share, whose prudent long-term planning, and whose time devoted to serve for free and with enthusiasm infuses the Order with an exuberant and enduring expression of the true volunteer spirit.
Of note is that the elected leadership of the BPO Elks from the Exalted Rulers of the local Lodges to the national president, known as the Grand Exalted Ruler, and other decision makers at the various levels serve without salaries.
The organization of the Elks is democratic representation, with overall statutes set through voting at national conventions. The BPO Elks national headquarters is based in Chicago. The Chicago campus is also the site of the Elks Veterans Memorial Building; the home of the Elks National Foundation, the Order's charitable trust; the Elks National Veterans Service Commission; and The Elks Magazine, the official publication that is sent to every member of the Order.
This information provided courtesy of the
Grand Lodge website